15.04 THIS COSMIC DAY OF BRAHMA - HINDU CONCEPT OF TIME
Those people who know the day of Brahma, which is of duration
Of a thousand (mahA-)yugas and the night
Which is also of a thousand (mahA-)yugas
They know day and night --bhagavad-Gita, VIII - 17
In Hindu cosmology and metaphysics it is not accepted that the universe was created from out of nothing at a particular point of time. For if something is created or born, it has to be dissolved, has to die. Strictly the conservation principle applies here. The universe was created according to Hinduism only by transformation of something which was latent before that. Creation is just a manifestation of what was unmanifest before. sRSTi and samhAra, creation and dissolution, are only two events in a long cyclic succession of events. There is no beginning or end. This alternation between manifestation and non-manifestation is what appears as the passage of time. Manifestation is when the universe of names and forms appears and non-manifestation is when it disappears. The only Ultimate Reality is brahman. Even Brahma, the Creator (mark the distinction between this word in the masculine gender and the word brahman, in the neuter gender) is only a manifestation of brahman at one point of time. He is the womb from which the entire universe becomes manifest and He is the One into which the entire universe dissolves. Each period of this manifestation of this Universe is a day of Brahma. From one day of Brahma to another day, that is, from one period of manifestation to another such, many things survive in their latent forms. Among these are the vedas - it is in this sense that the vedas are eternal - and the complex of prints of individual minds with their store of impressions called vAsanAs. These survive the nights of Brahma, the period of non-manifestation. The lengths of these cosmic days and nights in this long cycle of events have been elaborately described in the scriptures. The units mentioned therein are fantastically large and a modern mind may be tempted to dismiss them as a concoction. But the consistency with which different scriptures written by different people at different times in the past reveal these magnitudes of the yugas, is remarkable.
As detailed in the bhAgavata purANa - as well as in various other purANas, though with slight variations - the eternal flow of Time goes through cyclical periods of manifestation of the universe and equivalent periods of non-manifestation. Each such period of manifestation (or non-manifestation) is called a kalpa of Brahma the Creator and is equivalent to 4.32 billion human years. This is subdivided into 14 manvantaras. Each manvantara has a manuruling over the Earth and an indra ruling over the heavens. We are now in the seventh manvantara of this kalpa. The previous six manus are listed on the ensuing page. The present manvantara is called Vaivasvata manvantara because Vaivasvata Manu is the Lord of the Earth now. Each manvantara is divided into 71 mahA-yugasof 4,320,000 years each. We are in the 28th mahA-yuga of this manvantara.
Each mahA-yuga is made up of four yugas of which the last one is the smallest, known as kaliyuga, of 432,000 human years. We shall use the letter symbol k to denote this number 432,000 in the rest of this description. The other three yugas are, respectively in the backward chronological order, two times, three times and four times this duration. In the present mahA-yuga we are in kaliyuga in which we are in the 5120th year (corresponding to 2018-2019 A.D.). How do we know all this ? Well, we know that today is Tuesday, say, because yesterday was Monday. Yesterday was Monday because the previous day was Sunday. There is no other reason. The year is, say, 2018 A.D. because the previous year was 2017 A.D. There is no other reason. It is an age-old practice of Hindus to keep track of each year (and each yuga, mahA-yuga and manvantara) in their calendar of religious observances and that is how they claim to know. Though India has been criticized for its lack of historical sense, Indians have been doing a good job in terms of keeping track of their calendar (irrespective of the life-history of any individual). The rituals which every Hindu goes through, if not on auspicious occasions like marriage, certainly on inauspicious occasions like death, always start with the fixation of time and date in the age-old calendar. In fact those who perform ritual worship daily cannot but be aware of the calendar. In this way the exact date in the eternal cycle of the yugas has been passed on to us from generation to generation.
Table of Past Manvantaras
Names of manvantaras upto the present are given below, with some events that happened according to mythological history, in the particular manvantara:
During the Twilight before the first manvantara: CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE
VarAha-Avatara (= boar incarnation of the Lord) happened at the beginning
of the kalpa. This kalpa is hence called Sveta-varAha-kalpa.
Dhruva looks for God and finds Him by penance
Narasimha-Avatara (= man-lion incarnation of the Lord); Prahlada
The liberation of the elephant-king (gajendra-moksha)
kUrma-avatAra (= tortoise incarnation); the churning of the ocean ofmilk,;
Goddess Lakshmi appears; Lord Siva consumes kAlakUTa poison
7th: vaivasvata (Current manvantara)
In this manvantara 27 mahA-yugas are over.
To sum up,
The One Day of Creator brahmA is divided into 14 periods, called manvantaras
Six such periods are over.
We are now in the 7th.
Each period has a ruler who rules over the entire earthly world.
He is called a manu.
The name of the present manu is Vaivasvata, the son of the Sun-God.
Each manvantara is divided into 71 mahA-yugas (also called catur-yugas)
Each mahA-yuga is of 10 k = 4,320,000 years' duration.
We are in the 28th mahA-yuga of this manvantara.
Each mahA-yuga is divided into 4 yugas, called satya (= kRta), tretA, dvApara and kali - in that sequential order.
We are presently in the kali-yuga of the 28th mahA-yuga of the 7th manvantara of Brahma's day. (Duration of kali-yuga is 432,000 years)
Beginning of this kali-yuga: 3102 BC
This kali-yuga (like every kali-yuga) consists of
A beginning twilight period of 36,000 years
A central period of 360,000 years
and an ending twilight period of 36,000 years.
kali-yuga = ky = 432,000 (human years)
dvApara-yuga = 2ky = 864,000
tretA-yuga = 3ky =1,296,000
satya-yuga = 4ky =1,728,000
One MahA-yuga =10ky =4,320,000
One manvantara = 71 x 10ky
One manvantara-twilight = 4ky
(one before each manvantara and one at the end of the 14th (the last) manvantara)
At the beginning of the kalpa, creation begins. At the end of the kalpa, there is dissolution and Brahma the creator, goes to sleep, as it were. During one kalpa 14 manu's rule the world of humans one in each manvantara. Each manvantara is preceded and followed by a period of 1,728,000 years) when the entire earthly universe (bhU-loka) will submerge under water. The period of this deluge is known as manvantara-sandhyA (sandhyA meaning, twilight).
The kali-yuga in which we are in now will be followed by the satya-yuga of the next mahA-yuga, namely the 29th mahA-yuga, and so on cyclically. When 71 mahA-yugas of this manvantara are over, there will be a twilight period as stated above and then the next (8th) manvantara goes on and then the 9th manvantara, and so on. When the 14 manvantaras are over, Brahma's day is over and Brahma'snight begins. At that time the created universe (including the Sun, the stars and everything that was created at the beginning of the kalpa) will merge into the Absolute and Brahma Himself 'sleeps' as it were. When Brahma's night (of the same duration as His day) is over, the next kalpa begins and Brahma begins His work of creation again, deriving the strength and power from the Absolute once again as He did in the previous kalpas. This way Brahma'sdays and nights are counted 360 times to make one year of Brahma's life. The tradition says that it is the 51st year of Brahma now and in the 51st year it is the first day, in which again five and a half 'hours' out of 'twelve' hours have elapsed of His time. Thus with respect to Brahma's calendar the present time may be coded as 51styear - first month - first day - 7th manvantara - 28th mahA-yuga - 4th yuga or kaliyuga . The period of kali-yuga is just 4.32 'seconds' of Brahma's time!
Portion of Brahma's day elapsed up to the present time (2000 AD, say) consists of
(one preceding each manvantara): 6x4ky;
6 manvantaras completed : 6 x71 x 10ky;
preceding the 7th manvantara: 4 ky;
27 mahA-yugas elapsed in this manvantara : 27 ´x10ky;
three yugas elapsed (namely satya, tretA
and dvApara) in this 28th mahA-yuga: (4+3+2) ky
and, years elapsed in present kaliyuga 5120
All this adds up to 4567 ky+ 5120 = 1,972,949,120 human years.
This is the age of the universe in this day of Brahma as of 2018 AD.
The duration of one day of Brahma
One day of Brahma
= 14 manvantaras + 15 manvantara twilights
(because there is an extra manvantara twilight at the end of all the manvantaras)
= 14 ´x71 mahA-yugas + 15 ´x4 ky (Recall k y= 432,000)
= 994 mahA-yugas + 60 ky
= 994 mahA-yugas + 6 mahA-yugas (note: 1 mahA-yuga = 10ky)
= 1,000 mahA-yugas
( This confirms the verse of the Gita, quoted at the beginning )
= 1000 x 10 k y
= 4.32 billion human years.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: (A story from the Bhagavatam).
In the satya-yuga of the first mahA-yuga of the present (vaivasvata manvantara) , i.e., around 120 millions of years ago there lived a king of the Solar dynasty by name Kakudmi and his beautiful daughter Revati. Not trusting the astrologers of his time, yet believing in the maxim 'Marriages are made in heaven', Kakudmi took his daughter to the world of Brahma (called Brahma-loka) -- in every satya-yuga such things are possible - in order to ask Brahma himself as to who would be the best marital match for his daughter. Kakudmi had himself somebody in mind. But Lord Brahma was not available immediately since he was watching a dance performance. Kakudmi noted that it was 11-09 hours in Brahma's clock and waited for about 20 minutes (of that world's time!) and then he had the opportunity to ask Brahma his question. 'My dear Kakudmi', replied the Lord, 'From the time you came here your earthly world has passed through 27 mahA-yugas and so none of whom you have in mind or their descendents are alive now. Right now people are enjoying the avatAra of Krishna there. Go back and marry your daughter to BalarAma, the elder brother of Krishna'. Thus it was that Kakudmi and Revati travelled back into the future (from the 1st mahA-yuga to the 28th mahA-yuga). Revati was married to BalarAma. Note that 1000 earthly mahA-yugas make one day of 12 'hours'of Brahma. This means
one mahA-yuga = 43.2 'seconds' for Brahma; and
Brahma's one second =100,000 human years.